Should government leaders have to pass cognitive tests to stay in office?

Feb 17, 2023, 4:23 PM | Updated: Feb 18, 2023, 8:02 am
cognitive tests...
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks before a screening of the movie Till in the East Room of the White House February 16, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Nikki Haley, as part of launching her campaign to become the next Republican presidential candidate, believes it should be mandatory for politicians older than 75 to take mental and cognitive competency tests.

President Biden was inaugurated 61 days after turning 78, and before him, former President Trump was 70 when he was sworn in.

“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” Haley said during a rally in Charleston, South Carolina. “We’ll have mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”

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Additionally, Haley wants to enact term limits for members of Congress.

“With this whole mental cognizance testing for politicians, I think anybody who wants to run for public office and work in the government should have to prove their qualifications,” Spike O’Neill said on KIRO Nights. “Because I can point out quite a few representatives, both present and in the past, who I don’t think we’re qualified at all.”

Alongside the U.S. last two presidents, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is 80, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 82. Even Patty Murray, the President pro tempore of the United States Senate, recently turned 72.

The median age of voting House lawmakers is 57.9 years, down from 58.9 in 2021-22. The new Senate’s median age reached 65.3 years, up from 64.8 in last year’s Congress.

“To be in public service, I think you should have to have some Schoolhouse Rock level knowledge of the American governing system in order to be a part of the American governing system,” Spike continued. “You know, how many branches of government are there? Has a bill become a law? How many people serve in the House of Representatives?”

Representatives have brought this idea up before, including Republican Senator Bill Cassidy telling Axios back in 2021 that he was in favor of cognitive tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

The discourse has ramped up in escalation throughout Biden’s tenure as president, with headlines ranging from the Washington Examiner’s “Biden’s mental sharpness is increasingly doubtful” to Des Moines Register’s “Joe Biden’s mental acuity is cause for concern” to The Washington Post’s “Stop Smearing Biden’s Mental Capacity.”

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“How about a game show? Put them on Jeopardy. A Jeopardy-like situation where they have to answer basic questions about the U.S. government, our history policies, what the current situation of current affairs is, based on fact,” Spike said. “It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have part of the vetting process not just be debates where you can get off zingy one-liners in sound bites.”

Listen to KIRO Nights weeknights from 7 – 10 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Should government leaders have to pass cognitive tests to stay in office?